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How to Move Forward After the Loss of a Pet

Coping with the Loss of a Pet

The loss of your dog or cat can cause grief and intense sorrow; this grief deserves the care and attention of anyone who is experiencing a loss. Here's how to mourn and cope with the loss of a beloved pet.

Don't discount your loss

Our pets are so much more than just pets. They are companions, they are friends, they are members of our family. Grieving their loss is normal and healthy.

Feeling shocked or overwhelmingly lonely can be part of the process. It is important not to judge yourself as weak or overly sentimental if you find yourself experiencing such feelings. Acknowledging your loss is the first step toward healing. It is important to face your pain rather than ignoring it or “stuffing it down.” If you bottle up your feelings, they don't go away and will resurface eventually, perhaps in a more painful way than if you allow yourself to experience and work through them as they arise.

There is no right way to grieve

The grieving process is as unique as the individual going through it. It is personal and you should never be ashamed of how you cope. And remember ,grieving is a process, and just like the five stages of grief apply the loss of our human companions, you also might find yourself progressing from denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance after the loss of a beloved dog or cat.

Grieving is a gradual process. You can't hurry it up or force it along, and there is no “normal” timeframe for it. You might mourn your loss for days or weeks or years. Be patient with yourself and let your healing happen on your timeline. Cry on the days you feel like crying, laugh and smile when joyous memories come to mind.

Most importantly, don't let anyone tell you what you should be feeling. Grief is personal and your friends, particularly those who have not loved or lost a pet, might not understand how you're feeling. Don't argue with them about whether what you're feeling is appropriate. Trust yourself and seek counsel of those who will not discount the depths of your loss.

Don't go it alone

Sharing your heartache also can be key to helping you start to process your loss. The American Humane Society recommends reaching out to others, whether those others are friends or family or other grieving pet owners connected with via support groups. It further recommends a little online research to connect with support groups. Connecting and sharing your feelings with others who have experienced a similar loss can be a remarkable help in your time of pain.

If you aren't sure who or where to reach out, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has a Pet Loss Hotline: 877-GRIEF-10. It also offers end-of-life care advice on what to do if your pet dies at  home, as well as how to weigh euthanasia for an ailing pet and other tips for coping with your loss.

Other coping strategies

The American Humane Society advises writing about your feelings, in a journal or poetry for example, as a way to face and deal with your feelings.

Memorializing your companion also can be a step in your healing journey. An online search will provide abundant ideas on how to do so. Among some suggestions from are writing an obituary, planting a tree in your pet's honor, artwork commemorating your pet, or making a contribution in your pet's honor to an animal welfare organization such as the Humane Society or ASPCA.

Take care of yourself

While you're grieving, don't forget to take care of yourself. Grief can sap your energy and leave you emotionally drained. Make sure you eat right and get plenty of exercise as you move through your healing process.

Self-care also can be important if you have other pets who also might be feeling the loss of a dear friend. Surviving pets will sense your sorrow, too, so make a point to maintain their routines and maybe even up their daily exercise and play time, which could help both you and your pet cope.

Counseling or therapy also can be a tool in your grieving process and can be an important component of self-care. Our amazing team can be a great resource. Call us today for your free consultation .